All about honey and bees answered.

What Is Honey

Honey is a mixture of sugars and other compounds. With respect to carbohydrates, honey is mainly fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about 31.0%). Honey’s remaining carbohydrates include maltose, sucrose, and other complex carbohydrates. As with all nutritive sweeteners, honey is mostly sugars and contains only trace amounts of vitamins or minerals. Honey also contains tiny amounts of several compounds thought to function as antioxidants, including chrysin, pinobanksin, vitamin C, catalase, and pinocembrin. The specific composition of any batch of honey depends on the flowers available to the bees that produced the honey. Honey has had a long history in human consumption. The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, as a spread on bread, and as an addition to various beverages, such as tea, and as a sweetener in some commercial beverages. Honey is also the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also known as “honey wine” or “honey beer”. Historically, the ferment for mead was honey’s naturally occurring yeast. Honey is also used as an adjunct in some beers. Flavours of honey vary based on the nectar source, and various types and grades of honey are available. It also has had a role in religion and symbolism. The wonderful healing qualities of honey have been known since ancient times: honey was the most used medicine in ancient Egypt – it was deemed so precious that it was used as a form of currency; the Roman legions treated their wounds with honey; and athletes who participated in the ancient Olympic Games ate honey and dried figs to enhance their sports performance. Because of its unique composition and chemical properties, honey is suitable for long-term storage, and is easily assimilated even after long preservation. Honey, and objects immersed in honey, have been preserved for decades and even centuries. The key to preservation is limiting access to humidity. In its cured state, honey has a sufficiently high sugar content to inhibit fermentation. If exposed to moist air, its hydrophilic properties will pull moisture into the honey, eventually diluting it to the point that fermentation can begin. Honey bees are a highly developed species of the animal world and contribute significantly to the sustainability of the eco-system in all areas – urban environment, farming areas and bush lands. In Africa alone there are an estimated 3000 species of bees and throughout the world some 20,000 different species.

Why does honey crystallize?

All honey will at some point turn to sugar crystals. Some other terms for it are sugared, granulation, solidifying and crystallizing. This is a natural process. The crystals may be large or small, a grainy, sandy type or smooth and creamy type. What makes it crystallize is due to the type of flower the honey bee visited when she gathered the blossom’s nectar. The floral source determines whether the honey will turn into a solid form more quickly or not. Some honeys while raw will stay in a liquid form for quite a while. Other honeys will turn to a solid form with in a few weeks. This is due to how stable the sugar crystal is in the nectar. Remember the sugar crystals we made as children in grade school, we evaporated sugar water with a string dropped in it for the crystals to form on. This is similar to what is happening to the honey. This is not honey turned bad, or anything that is affecting the taste or quality of the honey. You may find you like it in this state!! It spreads on toast or bread without dripping off. It won’t run off the spoon as you take it from the jar to your hot drink. To turn it back to a liquid, pourable state, use gentle warming of the jar in hot (not boiling) water. Honey doesn’t need to be stored in the refrigerator. This speeds up the crystal formation.

How is the flavor or texture of honey determined?

The bees determine the flavor, texture, color and crystallization of the honey by which flowers they visit.

What can effect the amount of nectar in a blossom?

Weather determines the amount of nectar in the blossom. To dry of a season and there will not be much nectar for the bees to gather. Too much rain and the nectar will be diluted. Rainy or cool weather keeps the bees in the hive and they can miss a nectar flow when the flowers bloom while they stay in the hive.

What causes foam to rise to the top of a jar and what does it mean?

Air bubbles can rise to the top of a jar of honey and cause an accumulation of foam on the top of the jar. It is harmless and doesn’t effect the flavor or quality of the honey.

Are there any additives in your honey?

Our honey is 100% pure and natural. It is made entirely by honeybees from flower nectars. No ingredients are added by humans.

What is the role of pollen in honey?

Honey is made by honey bees from the nectar of flowers and plants, not pollen. Pollen is actually an accidental guest in honey, brought back by the bee as a source of food for baby bees (the “brood”), or incidentally introduced into the honey through other means, such as during the extraction process. Pollen in honey is sometimes analyzed to help determine the primary floral source. The amount of pollen in honey is minuscule and not enough to impact the nutrient value of honey. Honey is still honey, even without pollen.

Why is most honey filtered?

Honey that is filtered by packers is filtered for various reasons: Many consumers prefer honey that is liquid and stays liquid for a long time. All honey crystallizes eventually. Suspended particles and fine air bubbles in honey contribute to faster crystallization. Filtering helps delay crystallization, helping the honey to remain liquid for a much longer period than unfiltered honey. Many consumers prefer honey to be clear and brilliantly transparent. The presence of fine, suspended material (pollen grains, wax, etc.) and air bubbles results in a cloudy appearance that can detract from the appearance. Filtering is done to give a clear brilliant product desired by consumers. For the filtered style of honey, USDA Grading Standards for Extracted Honey give higher grades for honey that has good clarity. Honey is filtered to remove extraneous solids that remain after the initial raw processing by the beekeeper.

How do bees pollinate plants?

As bees travel from blossom to blossom in search of nectar, they brush against the pollen-bearing parts of a flower (anther or stamen) and pick up pollen. When the honey bee goes to another flower for more food, some of the pollen from the first flower sticks to the second flower. In this way, the flowers are pollinated. Almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon and many other crops all benefit from honey bees for pollination.

How do bees make honey?

Honey is the sweet fluid produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers. Worker honey bees transform the floral nectar that they gather into honey by adding enzymes to the nectar and reducing the moisture.

Who should I call to remove bees from my property?

We suggest that you contact your local beekeeping association.

Why does my honey look/taste different than I'm used to?

Honey comes in many colors and flavors – these are called honey varietals and they are determined by the type of flowers the bees visited for nectar. Some are light and sweet; others are dark and bold. Pick the honey you like and enjoy!

Why can't I feed honey to my baby less than one year of age?

Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism – a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young babies (under one year of age). C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil and improperly canned foods. Adults and children over one year of age are routinely exposed to, but not normally affected by, C. botulinum spores. Honey is safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation. While infants are susceptible to the infant botulism, adults, including pregnant females, are not. The concern for babies stems from the fact that infants lack the fully developed gastrointestinal tract of older humans. Since the mother is not in danger of developing this condition, the unborn baby is protected. Spores are inactivated when manufactured food products (such as cereals or nuts) receive a roasting heat treatment.

How do I substitute honey for sugar?

When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, begin by substituting honey for up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe. For baked goods, make sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning; reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Because of its high fructose content, honey has higher sweetening power than sugar. This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the desired sweetness.

Does honey have an expiration date?

Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time. If in doubt, throw it out, and purchase a new jar of honey!

Why are bees important?

Globally there are more honey bees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so it is the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees, but also by other insects, birds and bats. Worldwide, honey bees are a critical player in the pollination of many native plants as well as in the production of important food, fiber and seed crops. Many domestic and imported fruits and vegetables require pollination. Examples include avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, and sunflowers for oil, cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwis, cherries, cranberries and melons. For crops such as blueberries and almonds, the honey bee plays an essential role in pollination of commercial crops, with around 80% of crops said to be dependent on honey bees. Honey bees can also pollinate clover and alfalfa, which are fed to cattle, so there are implications for the meat and dairy industry too. And that is not to mention the huge range of manufactured food products made from all these ingredients. In addition, honey bees play a significant role in the pollination of other important crops such as cotton and flax. And there are also a number of valuable non-food products produced by the honey bee, such as beeswax used in cleaning and beauty products . Honey bees are social insects, which means that they live together in large, well-organized family groups. Social insects are highly evolved insects that engage in a variety of complex tasks not practiced by the multitude of solitary insects. Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defence, and division of the labour are just some of the behaviours that honey bees have developed to exist successfully in social colonies. These behaviours make social insects in general, and honey bees in particular, among the most fascinating creatures on earth. The average colony of bees consists of 40,000 or more bees. Approximately 13,000 of these bees will be out during the day collecting nectar, pollen and water whilst the balance remain in the hive cleaning, ventilating, guarding and tending to the young larvae. As the size of the colony increases up to a maximum of about 60,000 workers, so does the efficiency of the colony. A honey bee colony typically consists of three kinds of adult bees: workers, drones, and a queen.

How does a bee colony work?

In addition to thousands of worker adults, a colony normally has a single queen and several hundred drones. The social structure of the colony is maintained by the presence of the queen and workers and depends on an effective system of communication. The distribution of chemical pheromones among members and communicative “dances” are responsible for controlling the activities necessary for colony survival. Labor activities among worker bees depend primarily on the age of the bee but vary with the needs of the colony. Reproduction and colony strength depend on the queen, the quantity of food stores, and the size of the worker force. But surviving and reproducing take the combined efforts of the entire colony. Individual bees (workers, drones, and queens) cannot survive without the support of the colony. Each colony has only one queen, except during and a varying period following swarming preparations or supersedure. A queen is easily distinguished from other members of the colony. Her body is normally much longer than either the drone’s or worker’s, Her wings cover only about two-thirds of the abdomen, whereas the wings of both workers and drones nearly reach the tip of the abdomen when folded. average productive life span of a queen is 2 to 3 years. Queen bee with workers Because she is the only sexually developed female, her primary function is reproduction. She produces both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. During peak production, queens may lay up to 1,500 eggs per day, and and possibly more than a million in her lifetime. New (virgin) queens develop from fertilized eggs or from young worker larvae not more than 3 days old. New queens are raised under three different circumstances: emergency, supersedure, or swarming. When an old queen is accidentally killed, lost, or removed, the bees select younger worker larvae to produce emergency queens. When an older queen begins to fail (decreased production of queen substance), the colony prepares to raise a new queen. Drones (male bees) are the largest bees in the colony. They are generally present only during late spring and summer. The drone’s head is much larger than that of either the queen or worker. They have no stinger, pollen baskets, or wax glands. Their main function is to fertilize the virgin queen during her mating flight. Drones become sexually mature about a week after emerging and die instantly upon mating. Although drones perform no useful work for the hive, their presence is believed to be important for normal colony functioning. Workers on honey comb Workers are the smallest and constitute the majority of bees occupying the colony. They are sexually undeveloped females and under normal hive conditions do not lay eggs. Workers have specialized structures, such as brood food glands, scent glands, wax glands, and pollen baskets, which allow them to perform all the labors of the hive. They clean and polish the cells, feed the brood, care for the queen, remove debris, handle incoming nectar, build beeswax combs, guard the entrance, and air-condition and ventilate the hive during their initial few weeks as adults. Later as field bees they forage for nectar, pollen, water, and propolis (plant sap). The life span of the worker during summer is about 6 weeks.

What types of bee's do you get, and what is a killer bee?

In South Africa we have two main species: • Apis Mellifera Scutellata also known as the African bee, which is a is a subspecies of the Western honey bee and is found throughout South Africa except the Cape areas. • Apis Mellifera Capensis, the Cape bee which was originally restricted to the Western and Eastern Cape area. African honey bees cannot be distinguished from European honey bees easily, although they are slightly smaller than the various European races. The differences between African and European bees manifest themselves behaviourally. To the casual bystander, the primary identifying behavioural characteristic of Africanized bees is their heightened defensiveness compared to that of European subspecies. All honey bees readily defend their nests, and an attack usually means that the victim is too close to the nest. While European races of bees may attack a nest intruder with a few bees (usually no more than 10-20 bees), African bees may attack the same intruder with hundreds of bees. Furthermore, African bees generally defend a larger radius around their nest and usually require lower levels of stimuli to initiate an attack. Subspecies of western honey bees are native to Europe and Africa but have been spread widely outside their native range due to their economic importance as pollinators and producers of honey. However as with other fauna and flora, problems can arise when a new strain is introduced to foreign territories. Honey bees from Africa were imported to Brazil in the 1950s. The purpose was to introduce genetic material from the tropically adapted African bees into the resident European bees, thereby creating a bee better suited for a tropical environment. In 1957, several African queen bees were released accidentally. Their descendants quickly established a large feral population which had not existed in South America previously. Small swarms of Africanized bees are capable of taking over European honey bee hives by invading the hive and establishing their own queen after killing the European queen bee. The success of the African honey bee reflects superior adaptation to the tropical environment as compared to that of the European bee. Over the next four decades, the wild African honey bee population expanded into most of the tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas. African bees entered South Texas in the early 1990s, and since have disbursed throughout several South Western states of America. The Cape bee was originally restricted to the Western and Eastern Cape area. In the 1980’s these bees were introduced into the Gauteng (formally Transvaal) area by pollinators, and it was not a success. Cape Bees are unique in that the worker bees are able to reproduce their own kind through egg laying, whilst Scutellata does not. If a female worker from a Cape honey bee colony enters an African bee nest, she is not attacked, partly due to her resemblance to the African bee queen. Now independent from her own colony, she may begin laying eggs, and since they are capable of parthenogenetic reproduction, they will hatch as “clones” of themselves, which will also lay eggs. As a result, the Capensis workers increase in number within a host colony. This leads to the death of the host colony on which they depend. When the colony dies, the Capensis females will seek out a new host colony. The introduction of the Capensis Bee into the Scutellata region created total havoc amongst the beekeeping industry at the time, and currently Scutellata hives with Cape Bees are destroyed to prevent the spread of the Cape Bees to other hives.

Beekeeping FAQ

All your beekeeping questions answered.

How Many Hives Should I Start With?

The number of hives to start with is entirely up to the individual. We recommend at least two hives because with two hives you can share resources between hives. If one hive becomes queenless and fails to replace their queen, a frame of eggs can be carried over from the other hive. If one hives becomes low in numbers, frames of brood from the strong colony can be moved over to strengthen the weak hive. Certainly starting with one hive is acceptable, but there is an advantage to starting with more than one.

How Far Apart Should The Hives Bees From Each Other?

In commercial operations, four hives are placed on a single pallet. For the hobbyist, the distance between hives is usually determined based on the comfort of the beekeeper. The beekeeper may want to work all the hives without walking a considerable distance between each hive

Which Direction Should My Hives Face?

Traditionally, we recommend the opening of the hive should face south or southeast. However, it really does not matter.

How Close To The House Can I Put My Hives?

Use good judgment. Bees will fly miles away from their hive to find nectar. If a hive is near your house, the bees will still fly up and away. However, it may take six feet from the hive for bees to gain six feet in altitude. Keep this in mind so that hives are not placed near sidewalks, decks and clotheslines. Place them so that when the bees leave the hive, they will not be immediately near people or pets.

What Should I Plant To Help My Bees?

Bees will pollinate plants around your house, but not in huge numbers. In other words, if you have 10 tomato plants you will not see thousands of bees in your tomato garden. Certainly many bees will help pollinate your flowers and garden. However, most of your bees will fly out to an area of abundant nectar such as an apple orchard, acres of clover or a large grove of basswood or black locust trees. If you have a half-acre or more, planting buckwheat, clover and other flowering plants will certainly help your bees, but it is not necessary. Bees are quite capable of flying two to three miles to gather nectar.

Should I Buy Medication For My Bees?

When various pests and diseases were identified among bees, many chemicals became available. However, some of these chemicals proved to be harmful to bees over time. Certainly some medications do fight certain pests and diseases. However, we prefer not to use chemicals or medication in our hives. This is a personal choice.

Should I Start With A Top Bar Hive Or Langstroth Hive?

We believe new beekeepers should start with a traditional hive and only try a top bar hive after they have become more familiar with beekeeping.

Which Feeder Is Best?

There are many types of hive feeders all serve a different purpose. a. An entrance feeder is placed in the entranced of a hive in the spring. 1:1 Sugar/Water is used. This feeder does not need to be used in the summer and certainly not in the fall or it may cause other hives to rob and kill a hive. But this is the preferred feeder in the spring. b. A top feeder is a large feeder placed on top of the hive and sugar water is held in a large reservoir. This works well, but sometimes stray bees can get under the top cover and drown in the reservoir. Frame Feeders are used inside the hive in place of a frame. It’s a frame sized plastic reservoir and requires opening up the hive to refill. It cannot be used in the winter because you cannot open the hive to refill it if the temperature is below 60 (F)

What Happens To Bees During The Winter?

During the winter bees do not hibernate. Instead, they cluster tightly together in their hive and generate heat to keep each other warm. They eat honey and pollen that they collected during the spring and summer.

How Much Time And Commitment Is Required To Keep Bees?

Once your new hive is established, you really do not have to do anything for months. However, we recommend that you inspect your hive every two or three weeks to ensure that your queen is healthy and laying well. Many new beekeepers find beekeeping so fun that they will open up their hive several times a week. This is fine but really not necessary.